The term symposium simply means a Platonic dialogue. It is used to refer to the nature of eros or, in other terms, love. This Platonic dialogue has a great assumption that the Greeks morals on sexuality is critical scrutinized by Socrates. This literary work has captured the minds and imaginations of many philosophers and readers in the world. The symposium records all the intellectual conversations that took place at the evening party, where the guest was Socrates. All the speakers before Socrates had the tendency to glorify the nature of sex rather than speak more about the particular objects of sex. Socrates argues that love can never be beautiful, since love is ideally, the desire that one already has in an attempt to gain good things. In addition, Socrates also reinstates that when we decide to love something, our intention is to seek to possess what is good in it. Platonism is today associated with a relationship between heterosexuals.
From the dialogue, Aristophanes had earlier given a definition to explain the term love. According to Aristophanes’ definition, love is a search for that part that will make us whole. He argues that each one of us is just a half that is relentlessly searching for completion. Socrates refers to this theory of Aristophanes, but also adds that no one desires for and agrees to the other half, unless it is good to him or her. Thus, Socrates concludes that love will always be directed to that which is good and will possess it permanently. This leads to Plato’s definition of love that ‘love is of the everlasting possession of the good; all men will necessarily desire immortality together with good” (Plato, 12th Jan 2011). According to Plato, he suggests that the nature of human beings is composed of body and soul, and each is governed by contrasting impulses. Each part tries to govern the human beings in its own direction, but of love, from different objects.
Later Socrates modified his definition of love and said, “Love is the love of beauty and not of deformity” (Plato, 12th Jan 2011). By his second definition of love, it is clear that love leads into a desire to bring forth procreation, since it is the human beings’ nearest approach to perpetuity. According to the description in the symposium, love passes a number of successful stages for an ideal lover. From the very start, the one in love will have to consider the external beauty, which will make him or her love a particular person, who he or she finds attractive. The person will become the lover of all the external beauty and later come to the conclusion that physical beauty is not attached to anyone. The lover will, therefore relax the intensity of his passion for one particular person, because he will realize that such a passion is beneath him and of small account. Plato affirms this argument “Since I became his admirer I have never been allowed to speak to any other fair one……” (Plato, 12th Jan 2011).
Plato continues with his argument claiming that the subsequent stage in love is to realize that soul beauty is of much value than the beauty of the entire body. Despite an ugly body, a lover will appreciate moral and social beauty. Plato applies great efforts in his work on symposium trying to build up a method that would have helped us clarify the desire that we have and help us direct it towards its real desired objective.
On the other hand, Pausanias comes up with a brilliant way to help us think more about love. He breaks down love into two types, i.e., common love and the heavenly love. He defines common love as that of a man and a woman, who merely engage only for satisfaction of their sexual desires. On the other hand, he refers to heavenly love as that type of love where two people are mainly attracted to each other by a strong force that comes from within as if from deep inside the soul. In the symposium, lust is perceived as being immoral and vulgar, and those who have lust are seen to care for the sexual act only, “…… and also adulterous women who lust after men: the women who are a section of the woman do not care for men, but have female attachments; the female companions are of this sort.” (Plato, 12 Jan 2011). This kind of love is characterized by sexual attraction that is strong and produced by the desire of the body other than that of the soul
Through the Diotema, Socrates points out that for all human beings, the souls and the bodies are pregnant and eventually, after a given period of time, they will desire to give birth. In this case, people in common love are pregnant and have the desire to search for another lover to accomplish their sexual act that gives them satisfaction.
Every speaker leading to Diotema’s argument unveils a layer of what he feels about love and how it can be defined. Pausanias introduces dualism, Aristophanes emphasizes physical unity, Eyximachos introduces balance, while Agathon speaks about creative unity. However, Diotema combines all these aspects together and show us that true love lies behind the contemplation of the essence of the good itself, and this can only be explained by the mind, where humans experience love.
From the explanation above, every human beings fall into one or both categories of love. For instance, all of those at the symposium claim to have fallen into both types of love. However, they all prefer the “heavenly love” in comparison to the other (Plato 12th Jan 2011). Plato seems to be aware of the mystery of love in man, extending far beyond the mere direct relation of both sexes. Plato is conscious that the noblest things in this world are never severed easily from the sensual desires. In view of Plato, love is not the so-called feeling, but he refers to love as mystical contemplation of the good and beautiful.
Plato explains the phenomena of being in love very clearly. However, his argument is subject to be criticized. For instance, in his analysis the doctrine of eros may be destructive to human beings who may have a desire to comprehensively understand love and to those who seek to love and be loved. These make the symposium seem harsh and alarming. In addition, Socrates negates the body and exalts the soul. This also may contribute to the destruction of human life.
In conclusion, the definition of love calls for close examination and discussion. It is an ultimate human concern from time immemorial. For instances, many men and women are composing songs in an attempt to express their feelings due to this ineffable force, which leads them to the depths of despair. There is the need for another alternative that will recognize the legitimate place of love in both the body and soul.